Home - Chermside & District History

Libraries of Chermside

In the Beginning there was a Hall. First Library 1898 Lasted 60 years.

The first library may have been in the old Alliance Hall from 1898 when the Downfall Creek Recreation Club and Library was formed on 12th October that year.

Unfortunately we know very little about the Club since the only references we have are the minutes of the first few meetings held in the Hall.

Thus we cannot be sure whether the library was formed or not. But the men who met that night were pioneers who had a strong work ethic and usually did what they set out to do. It was a time when, if you wanted many things done in the local community then you had to do them yourself.

The Protestant Alliance Friendly Society Hall on the corner of Hall St and Gympie Rd
The Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australia Hall was on the northern corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road. It was built some time before 1898 and probably may not have looked quite like this sketch. Additions were made over the years and this sketch shows the hall as it was in about 1943. At present we do not have a photograph of the building. All we have are some photos which show parts of it in the background. Some of them are shown below.

Founders of Chermside Library 1898


Founders of Chermside Library 1898

This priceless scrap of paper is a testament to the spirit of the early settlers in the hamlet of Downfall Creek. In the great tradition of "If you want something done then get busy and do it yourself" they signed up. They were hard workers, just look at the occupations, but they found time make the hamlet a better place.

They were were pioneers and they had a dream which they put into practice and they succeeded as the dream became reality and continues 118 years later when the fourth library will rise from a the depths of the earth. Two basements and three floors,

Congratulations gentlemen you did well. And don't forget the women, wives and daughters, who voluntarily staffed the early libraries

Then the Hall became the School of Arts in 1909


Library School of Arts Office
This looks like a well equipped office for the interwar period; the calendar on the wall was for 1934. Since it came from the CDHS Inc., archives I thought it was taken in the School of Arts. However none of our senior members recognise it, but they would have been children in 1934,and they might be wrong. There is what looks like a reading lectern for newspapers on the left side.

In 1903 the name of the small village of Downfall Creek was changed to Chermside after that of the Governor of the time. In 1909 the Chermside School of Arts was formed and the Committee bought the Alliance Hall changing its name to the Chermside School of Arts.

The new owners immediately set about forming a library or possibly taking over the library that already existed in the building.

We have a great deal of information about this library because all changes are recorded in the Minute Books of the School of Arts. Fortunately these books still exist in the keeping of Mrs Jean Tune whose father, Samuel Harris, was the secretary for 22 years.

The Expansion of the Building



Library School of Arts Workroom
The workroom would have been for the library judging from the books!

The library served the community from 1909 till it the School of Arts was wound up and the assets handed over to the Brisbane City Council on 9th September 1952.

It was a lending library in which the members paid a small fee for borrowed books. There was also a reading room with a constant supply of newspapers and magazines as well as a small reference section. When the Council took over the library had a stock of 3,000 books.

The Council kept the library functioning in the hall which then became know as the Municipal Library Hall. This continued until the new library was built in 1958 even when the old hall was shifted back to make room for the new building.

The Chairman's Handbook


School of Arts Library Book Chairman's Handbook

This may be the only surviving book from the old School of Arts, Chermside Library. A sticker attached to the book makes it clear where it belongs. At present it is the CDHS Inc. library which is in the Archives Room.

The book was published in 1917 and may have been acquired around that time. It would not be classified as light reading for enjoyment but rather for "Diffusion of knowledge."

The book measures 17 cm long x 11.5 cm wide and 13 mm thick. The author was Sir Reginald F. D. Palgrave, K. C. B. the late clerk of the House of Commons.

Then there was Socialising in the Hall.


The Hall was also the community centre of the village, and later the suburb, till the Community Hall was built at Kedron-Wavell Social Club in about 1980.

It was used by every local community group in the district. The Scouts, Red Cross, Progress Associations, School Concerts, Farewells and Welcome Homes for servicemen in two World Wars, Church Services, Wedding Receptions, Dances, Fund Raising, Magic Lantern Shows, Silent Pictures till the Dawn Theatre opened in 1929, the Penny Savings Bank, Continuation Classes in Bookkeeping and Dress Making and many more functions.

Wedding reception at the School of Arts C1942
The Smith-Wyeth wedding reception at the School of Arts was a typical wartime event. All the men were in uniform and all the women were in home made wedding dresses. It was a defiant action as the participants were determined to live as usual in spite of the war. Some things were not going to change and this was one of them. This photo shows the front of the hall in the background. With the little ticket window where people paid their entrance money for socials and other events.

School of Arts Mr. Menerey Farewell
Mr. Nenerey was a long time Head Teacher at Chermside State School. The community farewell was held in 1933 and some of the children in the front row were still living in Chermside in 2015

Then a New Library Replaced the old Hall. 21-3-1958 Lasted 39 years.


At the Annual Meeting of the Chermside School of Arts in 1944 Sam Harris, Secretary, said that he was "looking forward to the day when the Library would be in a building of its own." On Thursday night 20th March 1958 his dream was realized when the new 300 square metre library complex, built on the site of the old School of Arts and costing 13,000 pounds ($288, 800 in 2004 values), was officially opened by the Lord Mayor, Alderman T R Groom.

The new library contained 11,000 books of which 4,000 were for children; the old Library held only about 1,000 which demonstrated the ability of the larger Brisbane City Council to provide improved services over the older and smaller School of Arts.

The library was operated with a professional staff of trained librarians with help from some of the old volunteers of the School of Arts days. It reflected the changes that were taking place in society as Chermside grew from a rural village to a suburb of a modern city. Education was changing and the libraries had to change with it.

Chermside Municipal Library 1958-1997
On the 21st March 1958 the new Municipal Library was opened on the site of the School of Arts building. The front gable of the old building can be seen in the background where it was moved to make room for the new library.

Then another new Library was built on a new site.17-1-1997 Lasted 19 years.


The present Chermise Library 1997
The present Chermide Library opened on 17th January 1997, about 40 years after the previous one which is now two shops. Like its predecessors it is state of the art, but for how long?

Costing $2.7 million the new library, on the Corner of Kittyhawk Drive & Hamilton Rd was opened by Lord Mayor Jim Soorley on Friday 17/1/1997.
The building itself covers approximately 1,500 square metres, the size of a 50 perch block of land, and five times bigger than the old library.

As of 2006 the library holds 85,000 items of which 80,000 are books in the reference and lending sections, the remaining 5,000 items are Audio Visual, Multi Media, Compact Disks, Video tapes, Digital Video Disks, Audio Disks. The latest addition is the facility which allows members to download books from the BCC Library computers into their personal MP3 players.

The Chermside Library, the biggest in Brisbane, is a Hub library in that it is the control centre for 9 smaller libraries in the North East Region of the City of Brisbane.
The library is managed through a network of computers in all departments and connected to the internet and email system. Within the library is a further system of 44 public access monitors consisting of 34 for general use, 2 for research, all of which are connected to the internet, 2 dedicated word processors and 6 for catalogue or index use.

The library is connected to the BCC city wide library system which ranks as one of the three largest city libraries systems in the world. It encompasses 32 suburban libraries and 1 mobile library with a total of some 1 million items all, or most of which, can be ordered by members from home via the ElibCat website and collected at the Chermside library.

The highly trained, specialist library staff, consists of 22 part time and full time women and men, led by a Hub Team Leader who supervises all the connected libraries in the North East Region. The Librarians, have bachelor or higher degrees, the Library Technicians are Para professional doing technical work and the Library Assistants are trained on the job, some having been teachers or librarians. The staff, which is overwhelmingly female, contrasts strongly with the 1898 and 1909 situations when women did not rate a mention in the administration; they could only be members.

Technologically, the 21st Century Chermside Library contrasts strongly the two earlier ones, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, on the corner of Hall and Gympie. While each was or is, a product of its time and technology, each served the demands of its time and each changed with time but all adhere to the same basic ideals as set out by the Downfall Creek Recreational Club and Library of 1898; some things change but…….

Library Kittyhawk Drive Side
The library from Kittyhawk Drive showing the long low aspect of the single floor building.

Then a Social Dimension was added to the Library. 13-3-2004


Library East Side Coffee Shop Veranda
On the 13th March 2004 the Library Hub was opened by the Lord Mayor, Tim Quinn. It consists of two meeting rooms behind the blue wall, a veranda beside the coffee shop and library extensions to the right. These additions restored much of the community aspect that was lost with the old School of Arts. This is also the car park entrance to the library.

This addition of two fully equipped meeting rooms, a small kitchenette, a coffee shop, an open veranda dining area and library extension, costing $2 million, was officially opened on Saturday 20/3/2004 by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Tim Quinn - an addition of 500 square metres which brings the total library area up to 2,000 square metres; the Coffee Shop is leased to Kedron-Wavell Services Club which works closely with the Library.

The addition of the Hub finally equipped the modern library with proper meeting hall facilities which disappeared when the old Chermside School of Arts was demolished in about 1980. As there are over 150 community organisations active in the Chermside district, the need for a moot centre was obvious, and urgent; progress, it seems, comes in fits and starts.

In June 2005 the Brisbane City Council payment centre was opened in the library with several assistants to accept payment of most services provided by the BCC.

So the story, begun in 1898 continues, and the dream of the founders lives on. What will our dreaming find after the next 110 years?

Fourth Library 2017. How long will it last?


Library 4th Corner Hamilton and Kittyhawk

The Third library was demolished towards the end of 2015 and the site cleared . Digging the site for the two parking basements proceeded followed by building during the whole of 2016 and almost up till the opening in March 2017.

This corner view of the 4th Library shows Kittyhawk Drive on the left and Hamilton Road on the right. The library occupies the ground floor and the BCC Northside Business Centre the two floors above.

There are two entrances, one from the two underground parking levels and the other from the the Hamilton Road side. See below.

South View


Library 4th Hamilton Rd

Proceeding along Hamilton Road, the long street entrance takes up much of the building.


Library 4th Detail of the entrance

A closer view of the street entrance shows the open inviting entrance to the Library off Hamilton Road. Will there be any roadside parking?

East View Detail of the Canopy leading to the entrance.

Library 4th View from East of entrance awning

East Entrance from car park joins up with the main street entrance on the Hamilton Road / South side. People parking in this car park climb the steps and turn left to walk around to the main entrance.

East View of entire building.


Library 4th View from carpark East side

East View from the surface car park which the Library shares with the Aquatic centre. The roofed entrance is hidden behind the trees. The high rise apartments show up in the background.

North View


Library 4th North side

This is the working side of the Library where the deliveries are made. It faces a rather blank back wall of the Kedron Wavell Services Club. It is also an entrance / Exit from the open car park.

West View


Library 4th West side

The western side fronts Kittyhawk Drive and faces the high rise apartment buildings that have almost completely replaced the line of houses which faced Playfield Street and backed on to Kittyhawk Drive.